Address by President Nelson Mandela at the official opening of the Vulindlela Water Supply Scheme on Human Rights Day, Taylors Halt Stadium

21 March 1998

Cabinet Ministers;
Amakhosi aKwazulu;
Premier Ben Ngubane;
Members of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Executive and Legislative Assembly, People of Vulindlela,

We have come here to celebrate and commemorate with you.

First of all, we commemorate South Africa Human Rights Day.

On this day we reaffirm the lesson of our centuries of struggle, that there can be no lasting peace, no prosperity in our land unless all enjoy freedom and justice as equals.

On this day we rededicate ourselves to the defence of the human rights which are guaranteed in our constitution, the basic law of our land. And we recall our pledge as a nation that never again shall one be oppressed by another.

Our experience, and the experience of all humanity, also tells us that our rights will remain without their real substance unless there are real improvement in the lives of our people.

That lesson is also written in our constitution and it is at the heart of our nation's programme of reconstruction and development.

When South Africans united for democracy, we knew that our freedom would not be complete while millions continued to live in poverty. From the start government has been guided by the principle. That is why in 1994 we launched the Presidential RDP Lead Projects. We did so to help ensure that the actions of government were directed towards the needs of the poor. That is the focus of all our policies. It is the meaning of our national budget which directs our spending towards the social services and poverty relief.

Today communities across our land are celebrating the progress that has been made in these and countless other projects. Together we are changing the lives of millions and giving concrete meaning to our rights to water, to health-care, to food and social security. We are bringing electricity and telephones to people for whom they were but a dream.

All these achievements, like the Vulindlela Water Supply Scheme have depended on the effort of communities. Government alone cannot achieve the goals we have set together. You have shown what can be done when we join hands, regardless of our political persuasion, and work together for the good of the community. You have shown how the hard and patient work of planning, consultation and implementation brings a better life.

We admire too the commitment to public service which has led so many to volunteer their labor so that this great endeavour to bring water to 200 000 people should be achieved. You have proved indeed that the spirit of Masakhane is strong in Vulindlela.

But the achievement of the people of Vulindlela is greater still. The pain of the conflict that ravaged this area for years is still in our hearts. As long as people lived in fear for their safety, development was impossible. Nor can we forget that not many years ago the tensions were so great that it was impossible for me and Chief Buthelezi to come here together to Taylor's Halt.

Today that history is behind us and we are proud to join with peace makers as they celebrate the fruits of development. In working together to meet the basic needs of the people you have found the true way of healing the pains of the past.

In their support and encouragement for these efforts, the traditional leaders of this area have shown themselves to be true leaders in putting the needs of the people before all else.

Congratulations to all who were involved!

You have set an example that will stand us in good stead in the future.

For even as we celebrate what has been achieved, we know that our task has only just begun. The needs are very great and it will take many years before all our people gain what Vulindlela will soon there are many other needs to be met.

Those of us who are receiving services as a result of these programmes will need to take responsibility for them and help pay for their cost. In that way the millions who are patiently waiting can also improve their lives and enjoy to the full the rights we have won.

The leaders of all political parties need to guard with vigilance the precious peace that they have promoted by working together, lest enemies of progress plunge communities into insecurity again in order to achieve their own selfish interest. we must ensure that the time of no-go areas has gone forever.

Nor can we rest content with having our rights written into our constitution. We must make them a living reality. The government has asked the Human Rights Commission to draw up a National Plan of Action to ensure the protection of human rights in our country, and I look forward to receiving their plan.

Above all, for all of us truly to enjoy our rights we need to achieve still more progress in reconstruction and development; in growing our economy; in defeating the criminals and rooting out corruption; in entrenching our democracy and making our public service more efficient.

These are government's priorities and we have the policies to achieve them.

Together we have laid the foundation for a better life for all. As we have been doing in Vulindlela, let us continue building.

It is now my honour to declare the Vulindlela Water Supply Scheme open.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website